Home & Garden

Some Holiday Decorating Help from the Pros

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It’s a big job preparing your home for the holidays, but there are businesses in our region that help to make the season bright — and do so easily. We caught up with a few to learn what it takes to make a great holiday home.

The team at Arvidson Pools & Spas, with locations in Crystal Lake, St. Charles and Palatine, perform setup and tear-down on exterior holiday decorations.

Preparing your home for the holiday season, both inside and out, can be a taxing undertaking. Some of us lack the time. Others lack the creative vision to put together that perfect look. But don’t fret. There is help, if you know where to look. In Crystal Lake, in particular, you’ll find three businesses that can transform your home into a winter wonderland.

Arvidson Pools and Spas

When you think pools and spas, it conjures up many images. And most of them involve a sunny summer day. Certainly not visions of Christmas.

But about nine years ago, that’s the direction Arvidson Pools & Spas headed. The firm has locations in Crystal Lake, St. Charles and Palatine.

“Being a pool company, our work is very seasonal,” says company president Dennis Marunde. “We were striving to find some way to keep our people employed year-round. One year I was looking for offseason ideas and Christmas holiday decorating seemed like something that might work.”

And it has.

Arvidson is now a popular destination for people looking for custom holiday decorating of the exterior of their homes.

“We install hundreds of jobs every year,” Marunde says. “It’s a really enjoyable change of pace for our construction workers. They put on their red jackets and red hats and get very excited for the Christmas season. They actually get so excited about certain jobs that when they are done, they’ll take their families and drive by the houses to show them the exciting results of their work.”

Arvidson boasts a sales staff that is trained in various design concepts, ranging from lighting to freestanding decorations.

“The company that we buy the lights and other equipment from also helps us with not only understanding elements of design, but the software that helps us computerize the whole process,” Marunde says. “People can talk with our sales team about what they are looking for, and we can help make it a reality.

“They might just want a wreath or a decorated bush, but frequently our salespeople can suggest other ideas. More often than not, people love the designs we suggest,” he adds.

Marunde says roof and ridge lighting are always a big part of the layout. Window decorating, tree and bush enhancements, and stake lights lining sidewalks and driveways add further enhancements.

“And we have daytime decor and greenery, like garlands and wreaths,” Marunde adds.

Freestanding items like toy soldiers and reindeer are more permanent and durable than the popular blow-up models.

The Arvidson’s team doesn’t stop with the set-up.

“We’re not just coming out and putting up lights,” Marunde says. “Our service also maintains those lights and greeneries. We do a series of drive-bys during the season to make sure everything is working. And if we see anything wrong or get a call from our customer, we come out and fix it. At the end of the season, we return to take it all down and clean up the yard. And we may also do a second return when the snow melts. We design it, install it, maintain it and store it.”

Marunde believes that sort of full service is what keeps people coming back.

“About 75 percent of our work is repeat customers,” says Marunde, who adds that roughly 25 percent of his holiday business is commercial and 75 percent residential. “Most of the time people choose to keep the same design, but we are open to tweaking it year to year, if that’s what they want.”

The cost for exterior holiday decorating varies, depending on the size of the job. Marunde estimates the average is around $1,500 per season for residential designs, though smaller jobs are possible.

No matter the level of work, Marunde vouches not only for its quality but also its timeliness.

“If someone contacts us online or by phone, they will be able to talk to a designer within 24 hours,” he says. “They can probably expect an at-home appointment within 48 hours. Depending on the circumstances, we can get a job done quickly.”

One reason the team can act quickly is because repeat customers receive setups as early in the season as possible.
“We front-end load as many of the returning customers’ re-installations as possible,” Marunde says. “That leaves us with around 100 slots available every year for new customers. We don’t have a problem meeting people’s needs.”

The team at Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center, in Crystal Lake, sells a wide variety of Christmas decor, including wreaths, garlands and whiskey barrel home accents, but crews can also help to decorate a home or tree and then clean it all up when the season is over.

Countryside Flower Shop

When you’ve been doing holiday decorating for more than 20 years, you become pretty good and efficient.

“We used to be at one place all day,” says Patti Braglia, purchasing manager at Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center, in Crystal Lake. “Now we can do three or four in a day.”

And with that efficiency and quality of work, you also gain trust. “We have people who give us the PIN number to their homes,” she says. “They’re not even there.”

It’s all part of the convenience that Countryside offers when it comes to helping people prepare for the holidays. The store at 5301 E. Terra Cotta Ave. offers both interior and exterior decorating services.

“We do trees, bannisters, custom silks, outdoor holiday lighting – anything they want,” says Braglia. “We go to people’s homes and decorate with their decorations, or we bring our own.”

Countryside offers both residential and commercial services, although Braglia admits she prefers the intimacy and variety that come with helping people spruce up their homes.

“Every homeowner has a different style and taste,” she says. “Most commercial jobs are standard colors and traditional looks. With residential, everyone is so different in their styles.”

The best example comes when Braglia and her staff decorate trees. Countryside offers pre-decorated trees for purchase, but in most cases people have their own tree and choose what they want it to look like.

“We have 20 themed trees here that you can use for ideas,” she says. “We can pick out silks, ornaments or anything else depending on your style. And if you have bannisters, we can decorate them to tie in with the holiday tree.”

Braglia has done as many as five trees in one home, along with bannisters and wreaths.

And along with the traditional types of decorations, Countryside also offers new, unique products, including a line of items made from whiskey barrels turned into things like lazy susans and serving trays.

And for the guys seeking a more masculine look to their holiday decor, there are products from Torched that include magnetic beer bottle openers, candles, hot sauces and shot glasses made out of beer tops.

Not only does Countryside set up your holiday look, they also take it down.

“We pack it back up and put it in our storage bins at your place, so it’s ready for next year,” Braglia says.

Once you have your initial decorations you pay only for the labor. The cost depends on the size of the job. It’s $60 per person per hour, and Braglia usually works with two assistants, making it $180 per hour.

The time for a project also is based on the size. Braglia currently has close to 50 regular clients, but she still has room for more.

“The turnaround time isn’t that bad,” she says. “When I’m alone, it could take me all day. But when we have a crew of two or three, we can get out in an hour and a half.”

Yours & Meyn, in downtown Crystal Lake, uses lavishly decorated motifs, such as living rooms and fireplace mantels, to help shoppers visualize how home accents might fit into their own dwellings. Professional designers on-site are also available to customize home decor or create the right assembly of accents to set the holiday mood.

Yours & Meyn

For the do-it-yourself holiday decorator, knowing where to start is sometimes the most daunting challenge.

There’s help for that.

Mary Meyn, owner of Yours & Meyn, Simply Designed, in downtown Crystal Lake, believes coming home for the holidays is about bringing family together. So, she and her team offer their own design expertise to help customers make the most of their holiday decorating.

Come the first weekend in November, the store is transformed into a winter wonderland with numerous vignettes incorporating colorful holiday accents.

Yours & Meyn is both a retail store and an interior design studio. During the holiday season people frequent the store just to see what new adornments are on the sales floor.

“People will come into the store and tell me, ‘This is my happy place.’ I love to hear that,” Meyn says. “The store has become a point of inspiration for people, and that is what I strive for when selecting new pieces for original and innovative design solutions.”

Among its many home accents, Yours & Meyn carries a variety of holiday items including ornaments, garland and ribbons.

“And it’s always changing,” says Meyn. “You can buy anything off the store floor. We move our inventory pretty quickly, from candles to sofas. It enables me to bring in new things all the time.”

But items for purchase are just a part of what Yours & Meyn has to offer. The store also enables customers to build upon things in the store or else enhance what they already own.

“You may have someone who has a mantel or some candle holders that they already have from us, and we’ll help embellish them,” Meyn says. “For example, we have a customer who comes in every year looking for ideas before their big dinner party.”

The professional staff offers creative ideas to the most interesting requests.

“On any given day, you can find one of our home stylists looking at photos on a customer’s phone in an attempt to understand what they are working on,” she says. “Our stylists come up with ideas outside of the norm, which inspire our customers and keep them coming back time and time again.”

The key to the whole experience is the staff, which includes four designers and several home stylists who can tackle anything from a simple tabletop arrangement to a full room design. Customers and clients may also ask the Yours & Meyn team to visit their homes for professional advice. It’s one more way the store can stand apart from impersonal online options.

“In today’s big world of online shopping, I’ve intentionally created a space where people can come and feel like they are part of styling their own space with a professional’s eye,” says Meyn. “I want a retail store where people can be inspired.”

For those special projects that require a designer’s input, appointments are encouraged, but Meyn says walk-ins are always welcome.

“It’s fun to offer up design suggestions on the fly,” she adds. “We also have a dedicated staff who can spend an hour or longer with you if needed. Our home stylists work the retail floor and our designers work in the studio upstairs when they’re not in a client’s home.”

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